On this, the third Sunday of Easter, there has been a beautiful gospel reading for the day. And I had the pleasure of hearing two lovely sermons at 9am and 10:45am.
Did not our heart burn within us was the center of Fr David’s sermon in the 9am service this morning. And a heartfelt sermon it was. Fr David spoke of love. Our relationship with one another, and with God…
We all have an experience of this love. In our deepest passions we feel this. And in our relationships, in our times of deep, tender, romantic love for another, there is a moment when you wake up and understand the feeling. When your heart burns within you and you realise that your caring love is a more than simply friendly, brothely or sisterly kind of love. There is a moment when you recognize the deeper meaning. And hopefully you come together with that person and remain with them for many years. That kind of love never dies. Never fades. And even if the person has passed on to the next world in waiting, that shared love remains inside forever. Burning within us.
Now, faith is like that. Jesus rose. He lives still, in and around us. The depth of God’s passion for us keeps us burning. If we are open the light inside us that is God strengthens us and enables us to do anything. Be true children of God in sharing, in compassion, in love. Jesus was crucified. God was crucified. Wounded, he felt the greatest pains. He suffered, and showed us a way, the way that we must live. Together. Peacefully. Lovingly. Openly. The God that lives in us lives in us all. And never leaves. Never fades.
To know God is to consciously feel God within us, burning, loving, and sustaining us. Fr David’s message inspired me, and as I know from many conversations afterwards, he inspired many others too. The depth of love that we feel for others, and for God, makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to the hurts that love can bring. Yet love sustains us. Carries us forward. Love gives us life. There is no life without love. 1 Corinthians 13 describes love in many ways as being the greatest gift from God. Love is God.
And as Fr Simon’s sermon emphasised for us this morning in the 10:45 service…
Because God lives in us all, killing another human being is to kill one with God within them. The God that created us breathed life, Spirit (Ruach in the Hebrew) into us, and dwells in us, lives in us. Jesus tells us that we have no right to take another life. Not even when they have done terrible things. A Son of God, God, a human of peace. We can never completely destroy human life, for the soul lives on in heaven. But in Acts 2, the disciples realise that they have killed someone with God inside them. A Son of God. Verse 37 tells us that they were pricked in their heart. What results? Damaged consciences. Sadness. Pain.
It may be difficult to with this in mind apply it to those like Hitler, and in the recent death of Osama Bin Laden, whom our Archbishop of Canterbury was reported to have recently been regretful for the death of. Rowan who was in New York on 9/11 and narrowly escaped being killed himself. Rowan who is right to be regretful. To be in some way saddened by the murder of a fellow human being, whatever the circumstance. Imagine what it would be like if the whole of humanity together lived in the way of never taking another human being’s life from them. If we all respected one another. Can you think of one word to describe what that would be like? (A parishioner, smiling, says “bliss.”) Yes, bliss! Bliss, and what the Bible would call Paradise. Oh I know what it would be if we could live like that. It would be heaven.
When I heard of Osama’s death, I saw a newspaper with Burn in Hell! written on the front of it. And my heart broke. I remember the day that I, in front of a class of (shocked) students in college, told them that I do not in any way desire Hitler to ‘burn in hell’. Neither do I for Osama Bin Laden. I mourn the deaths of those who have been murdered. But I do not celebrate the murder of murderers. And I never will.
J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series (a source of so much theological inspiration) describes killing as that which rips the soul apart, and makes one something other than human. Unless they turn around; the Greek metanoeo: repent. Bullinger’s Dictionary translates metanoeo as meaning “to perceive afterwards, hence, to change one’s mind and purpose. This change is always for the better, and denotes a change of moral thought and reflection; not merely to repent of, nor to forsake sin, but to change one’s mind and apprehensions regarding it. Metanoeo denotes to reform, to have a genuine change of heart and life from worse to better.”
It was with heartfelt gratitude that I thanked God who directed me to a quote from Martin Luther King Jr the day after Osama’s death, which beautifully says it all.
I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
And I remembered Mahatmas Gandhi:
We will not strike a blow, but we will receive them. And through our pain we will make them see their injustice, and it will hurt — as all fighting hurts. But we cannot lose. We cannot. They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then, they will have my dead body — not my obedience.
And with a tear in my eye, I thanked God for those who hear this, for those who remember Mahatmas Gandhi, and all who hear and believe in Jesus’ message of peace and love for the world.
I finish today’s long post with a line from the liturgy of our Eucharistic (thanksgiving) service: Let us persue all that makes for peace…